Jazz Praise O’Neale, Attention To Detail Ahead Of Game Four

Aug 22, 2020, 2:03 PM
Royce O'Neal of the Utah Jazz defends Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (Photo by Ashley Landi-Pool...
Royce O'Neal of the Utah Jazz defends Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (Photo by Ashley Landi-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ashley Landi-Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –ย The Utah Jazz have experienced an offensive explosion during the NBA playoffs. The team is averaging 124.3 points per game, the most of any playoff team by more than four full points. But while it’s easy to point to the avalanche of points the Jazz have brought down on the Denver Nuggets, guards Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell pointed to two other key factors for the Jazz consecutive blowout victories — Royce O’Neale and a newfound attention to detail.

That’s not to say the Jazz offense hasn’t been otherworldly. The Jazz are 14-0 this season in regulation games when they score 121 points or more. The team leads all playoff performers in field goal percentage and is third in three-point percentage. The Jazz are second in three-pointers made and Mitchell leads all playoff scorers at 35.7 points per game.

But in a make or miss league, the offense can be uncontrollable. The Jazz hot shooting could drop off for no other reason than they miss shots, and the efficiency and points per game could plummet. Between games three and four, Mitchell and Ingles praised the less obvious elements of the game for the team’s success.

Royce O’Neale Excelling Against Jamal Murray

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray torched the Jazz in game of the opening-round series. Murray connected on 8-10 field goal attempts over the final minutes of regulation and overtime, and finished with 36 points, including 6-9 from downtown.

Ingles took the blame for Murray’s performance, which resulted in a switch of the Jazz defensive assignments.

“I didn’t defend Jamal Murray at all,” Ingles said jokingly. “Royce has done a great job of limiting Jamal.”

Since the opening game breakout from Murray, the Nuggets guard has been limited to 26 total points on 29 field goal attempts. He’s also made just 3-10 from the three-point line. Ingles said he wasn’t offended by the role change which has yielded enormous success for the Jazz.

“It’s not me going to my room being upset that I’ve changed assignments to someone else or mad at Royce,” Ingle said. “Because he’s taking the job that I was supposed to do, but that’s what Royce does, and he does it at an extremely high level.”

Mitchell said the key to slowing Murray is to make his life difficult on the basketball floor.

“He’s a guy can get to the basket, can create, and find others,” Mitchell said of Murray. “Royce just made it tough on him. And I think that’s just the biggest thing, try to find ways to make it tough.”

After a rough game one that saw O’Neale connect on just 1-6 shots, scoring three points and recording a game worst -21 plus-minus, the forward has turned his game around on the offensive end as well.

O’Neale is averaging six points, six assists, and 7.5 rebounds for the Jazz in each of the last two outings, shooting 57 percent from the floor and 66 percent from three.

Jazz Attention To Detail Surging

In additon to creditng O’Neale with the Jazz game two and three victories, both Ingles and Mitchell cited the team’s attention to detail for the wins.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder is notorious for leaving no stone unturned during film review. The coach gets so in depth, it can be intimidating according to Ingles.

“I don’t know if you want to be in those team rooms sometimes,” Ingles said slyly. “But no it’s awesome. I love it.”

Snyder is notoriously diligent in his gameplanning. From floor scparing, to defensive switches, to opponent tendencies, the coach expects a lot from his roster in regards to the scouting report.

“In a playoff series when you playing the same team X amount of times, you can really hone in on a few things and things you want to do,” Ingles said of Snyder’s game plan.

Mitchell credited that microscopic view of the series for the teams back to back blowout victories.

“I think it’s being able to focus on every little detail for the whole 48 [minutes] and understanding it’s just one game,” Mitchell said. “However much we won by, it doesn’t really matter it’s just one game. And we’re all looking forward to game four.”

The Jazz and Nuggest tip off game four at 7 pm MT on Sunday. The game will be braodcast nationally on TNT and locally on AT&T SportsNet.

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Jazz Praise O’Neale, Attention To Detail Ahead Of Game Four